New research has found Catholic religiosity can lead to better mental health.
The key link? Spiritual openness and transcendence, says researchers Aleksandra M. Rogowska and Danuta Dolega.
“My aunt was a religious Sister Of the Resurrection, and I saw how hard she and the other sisters work, with high engagement, serving older and disabled people, and priests as maids. I wondered whether the differences in spirituality and mental health would be shown between Roman Catholic priests and nuns in my study by using standardized questionnaires.”
Their study looked at 70 priests and 70 nuns from Poland between the ages of 21 and 70. They completed questionnaires addressing their faith, morality, religious practices, religious self, spiritual transcendence, and mental health.
They found that 31% showed somatic symptoms, 27% showed symptoms of anxiety and insomnia, 19% showed symptoms of social dysfunction, and 10% showed symptoms of severe depression.
Interestingly, they scored generally below average for the Polish people, meaning priests and nuns have better mental health, and that religiosity was the likely explanation.
“To my surprise, clergy and nuns do not differ significantly in mental health and spirituality. Overall, high spirituality and religiosity can improve mental health, so prayers and developing transcendency can be seen as a way of self-actualization, and coping strategies in stressful situations (like currently the COVID-19 pandemic), maintaining well-being.”
Taking a deeper look, they found spiritual openness and transcendence encouraged better mental health.
“Our study showed that spirituality plays a mediating role between religiousness and mental health. Highly spiritual people may increase their mental health through religious activity, such as participation in church practices, celebrating important events in Christian life, prayer, and meditation. Various forms of religious behavior may be protective factors for mental health disorders. Engaging in spiritual practices, especially exercising spiritual openness, may also facilitate better health.”
Find their study Investigating the Relationship Between Spiritual Transcendence, Personal Religiosity, and Mental Health in Roman Catholic Clergy and Nuns here.